‘Every year new highs for PRINS consultancy programme'
The World Food Programme, Philips, the European Space Agency. An overwhelming list of organisations that Sarita Koendjbiharie, as founder of the PRINS consultancy programme of International Studies, has managed to recruit. ‘We keep reaching new highs and insights together with our students and organisations.’
‘Constantly, we end up at a point of knowledge and growth that is difficult to predict beforehand’, says Koendjbiharie about consultancy programme Practising International Studies (PRINS), that has given 2500 alumni an advantage on the labour market since 2015. The programme acts as the final part of the International Studies study programme, a programme which started in 2012. Students do research into complex societal issues of influential organisations.
Koendjbiharie developed PRINS based on the theoretical and practical knowledge on inter-organisational networks that she acquired at the Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University. ‘With unbridled commitment, I have created this course for the study programme, and especially for our students. It can be very difficult to translate academic skills into jobs, but with PRINS you can tell people that you, for example, analysed frugal innovation in Kenya in order to advise local policy on climate action for three months. You gather current and concrete examples because you apply skills in a concrete way.’
‘We have discovered a new work field’
PRINS is embedded in the International Studies study programme, which moves with the times. ‘Each year, we push the boundaries of our societal impact by recruiting and completing brand new projects. For Philips, students researched how the medical industry in Southeast-Asia is changing and for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs how the Multilateral Organisations and Human Rights Department can resume its progress on Sustainable Development Goals after the pandemic.’
One of the collaborations that stuck with Koendjbiharie the most is the one with non-governmental organisation (NGO) and anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International. They wanted to know how small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) could be made more resilient against corruption during international trade. Big businesses usually have legal departments to this end, but SMEs don’t. They, however, do have to export. Thanks to their research, the students discovered a completely new work field, namely that of medium-sized and small NGOs. ‘It is mainly those that could act more transparent towards local aid recipients. That did not happen sufficiently enough yet. In collaboration with the NGO branch association in the Netherlands, transnational NGOs have actually been trained at this, thanks to the students’ advise.’
Koendjbiharie always explores whether there is a good fit between the knowledge needs of the organisations and International Studies, one that causes mutual inspiration. Paid projects are deliberately never chosen. 'We don't want sponsorship to interfere with the academic freedom of students during their research.'
Added value humanities to business
Koendjbiharie feels that the humanities have added value for the organisations that she works with. Because of the diverse backgrounds of the students themselves, but also because of their regional specialisations and the way in which the students know how to approach the world from different perspectives. ‘This way, they know which regional policies and local changes are needed, and also which local cultural, political and economic contexts play a role. This is something that the organisations we work with always appreciate. I’m not saying that monodisciplinary study programmes are redundant, but students of International Studies add this holistic perspective.
Koendjbiharie thinks that her research will further reveal the added value of PRINS. ‘In previous years, we only had the promise that the programme made, now we also learn from alumni experiences.’ They are often asked about their experiences with the PRINS programme by employers and during master’s admissions. ‘On LinkedIn, we also pay attention to our alumni. PRINS is frequently mentioned as one of the most important aspects of their further development. I also notice that through their project expertise, a lot of them have created career paths in, for example, ethics in artificial intelligence.’
For 2022, she expects to start PRINS projects within five societal themes* that International Studies focusses on. Within these themes, topics like inclusion, climate change, public health and recovery after the Covid-pandemic will be addressed. She aspires to work with the World Health Organization, chocolate company Tony’s Chocolonely and manufacturer of electric cars Tesla. Mainly students of the generation after the pandemic realty need this learning experience, she believes, because the labour market has shrunk. ‘PRINS offers you a helping hand because you have already successfully applied your knowledge before graduating.’
*Social Justice and Human Rights; Technology and Society; Environment and Society; International Order and Disorder; Systems of Belief and Religion.